Thirty-thousand words deep into NaNoReWriMo 2016 and I’ve learned that my hack and slash editing style requires three times the time it takes than actually going HAM on the keyboard to produce a draft.
Why NaNoReWriMo? Because this is a rewrite, which accounts for the two extra characters in the acronym. The short version: my nose is to the keyboard and I don’t want to talk about what a long, hard slog this is since it’s largely a structural rewrite instead of something seat-of-the-pants fun, which is what National Novel Writing Month is intended for. I will admit to being wildly jealous of my friends who are writing new novels this month. Every time a new status update comes in brimming with joy about the quirky things other people’s characters are doing, I exact my frustration on another of my poor, dead darlings.
Waking the Dead
I’ve been mired in this one particular scene cluster for a week now, wincing as I hit the delete key repeatedly, then attempting to stitch things back together so the flow isn’t so jammed with exposition. On the one hand, I’m armed with a much better understanding of the world and its magic than I did the first time I wrote this, on the other, taking a measure of what to weave in and when is a balancing act: you don’t want it to drag, you don’t want to take away from the momentum, but you need to ensure that the reader understands some basic setup so that when they hit the three-quarter mark the stuff that was seeded in the beginning can grow into something gnarled and ugly and poignant. You want to make sure your characters shine, and in one shimmering moment, Eden drove everything home with the punch and verve and irritation that I know her for.
There have been good moments. These good moments have been wrought from suffering through plotting pretty hard alongside aggressive world building and character design.
Had I not overestimated how complex the damned thing would be, I would have done all of the prep the first time around. I also thought, the first time around, that this would be a linear horror story: not a braid of stories weaving together to create a denser tapestry to negotiate. (On the bright side: I can justify my subplots and extended character cast. If I pull out one, the whole thing unravels.)
This rewrite and edit is the actual work of writing, for me; the stuff that is necessary to ensure all the bones of the plot are aligned correctly before I dose the manuscript with a jolt of lightning to give it life (which is to say that after this, I’m going to give it another character and dialogue pass, let it steep a bit, and a then a line edit before handing it off to beta. More on that later — I will be recruiting a willing group of victims at some point.)
On the bright side, everything that happens after January means it’s nearly done, and I can refocus on something else for a bit.
The Hollow Road
That something else is under a working title, so I don’t have to refer to it as Book MMXVII constantly. For ease of reference, I’m calling it The Hollow Road. On standby is also another project that retells The Fall in a contemporary setting, known as Shine. Waiting in the wings is a second necromancy-centered book that is merely a vague idea about multiple incarnated lives and lost love and the defiance of death and the sort of bargain required to draw back a soul when it escapes one predisposed to bringing back the dead (The Book of Black Earth). And so on.
At least one of these projects will be released without traditional trappings. I hope. Maybe.
I’ve noticed a distinct difference between ideas I treat as “just for fun” and those that like to eat at my brain and stress me out because of too-much self-applied pressure to DO THE THING. The “just for fun” work is delivered much more rapidly than the stuff that I’m being overly careful with, and sometimes, the lack of obsession results in a more natural draft that requires less pruning.
The Hollow Road Characters
The idea for the latest “something else” crept up on me the other night, demanding that I putter around with a few other new characters. They just showed up, waving and smiling.
Smiling? Who the hell are you, I asked them. I don’t write smiling characters. I write characters fraught with anguish and weighed down by their personal trauma, possessed of too much biting criticism of the world and a tendency for aberrant behaviour. They told me:
A girl named Harper, whose mother is dying.
A boy named Oli, who likes to take pictures…
And another, quieter figure from the past who is as delicate as a cobweb, Violet.
At the centre of this story is a house somewhere in New England, but most importantly: the house is sinking into the alluvial soil of the lake on which it sits. Let’s repeat that: Lake. Lake. Lake. Lake.
I’ve had this idea notched into my head for the longest time where I need revisit some underwater phobias with claw-footed bathtubs and faucets that spout dark things and the stuff you can’t see when you’re treading water and kicking up sediment. I see water as a mirror: what lies below also reflects what is above.
I know it’s being told in two narratives. I know that at its core, it’s a ghost story. The rest? Not sure. Bits and pieces get revealed the deeper I go.
Hopefully it will be less complicated to execute than the series I’m rewriting. I hoping that fewer characters and fewer subplots will result in something that is delivered linearly and without so much futzing.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is a summary version of where I’ve been lurking and what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks.
Doubtless I shall surface again at some point in the near future, but if you’ll forgive the pun, I’m still drowning for the moment.
How are you? What have you been up to?